Natalia Kossobokova is the Content Marketing Manager at CGS. She spearheads the development of global marketing content which includes videos, blog posts, newsletters, editorials, emails and other marketing projects.

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Natalia Kossobokova
July 01, 2019

The Three Basic Rules of Outsourcing You Should Follow

Call Center Employees Celebrating an Award

“People, Processes, and Tools are the foundational building blocks for a successful BPO support model. However, even with the best technologies and tools in place, not having the proper recruiting, hiring and training processes will impact your ability to successfully deliver consistent quality support to your customers,” claims Mike Mills, Senior Vice President, Global BPO Sales, Contact Center Division at CGS. “Once you invest in your people, which is your most critical asset in customer service solutions, the future success of your team and your customer is assured.”

Mills’ words reflect recent findings in the latest CGS Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) “Look Ahead” report which revealed that “people, performance and management” were the topics most readers were interested in learning about in 2019. Included in these top trends were chatbots and other technologies that can reduce the cost of outsourcing. Even though recent technological developments are already having a profound impact on the outsourcing industry, the basics will still come into play for a successful BPO program. According to this BPO report, outsourcing clients are looking for:

  • Low agent turnover
  • Increased agent tenure and knowledge of a client’s business
  • Consistent training
  • Performance measurement programs

An employee receiving a certification for training at her workplace

Basic Rule #1: Invest in Your Agents

This is the time to reflect on how to attract and retain top talent to your Contact Centers. Ask yourself: Do you have the most competitive pay rate, a proper reward system, a positive work culture and opportunities for career advancement? All of these employment benefits to your potential agent must keep up with or exceed industry standards and be thoroughly explained during the recruiting process. By investing in these fundamentals, you will cast a wider net for potential applicants and improve how your internal brand is perceived by prospective hires.

There are many challenges when it comes to recruiting the right talent. Approximately 73% of employers are struggling to find relevant candidates. Your next step is to make sure each contact center candidate matches your required skill set in the screening process. Here are some considerations for hiring future agents:

  • Experience: All applicants must have the core skills you require. This includes both technical or soft skills as well as the capacity to learn on the job. You must be able to match the right agents allocated for the appropriate service level and project.
  • Language: Test their language skills during the interview process. Don’t simply rely on certifications.
  • Tenure: Check how often they’ve changed jobs in their career. Avoid hiring agents who switched jobs within less than one year, on a repeat basis.
  • Attitude: Assess how they have approached difficult challenges in the past and how they were able to resolve them. Did they have a positive attitude? Soft skills are absolutely critical to sustained high customer satisfaction results.

Keep in mind that changing demographics require changing the recruiting strategy. According to CNBC, an estimated 61 million members of Generation Z are poised to enter the workforce. As a result, companies must make the contact center recruitment process a lot more fun and interactive. According to HR Executive, Gen Z wants to connect with the company, its culture, and its purpose. Creating a consistent, memorable brand with stories really resonates with this demographic. They want to have a personal connection with the company.

Once an agent joins the team – what do you do to keep them engaged? The key is working with a top-notch HR and operations team who work cohesively together to initiate the onboarding process. On the training side, if you don’t follow the right hiring and screening process, you may be constantly battling attrition that typically occurs during the training cycle, especially with more complex processes that can require 5-6 weeks of classroom-type training.

“If you’re hiring people only to achieve a committed ramp up plan or in “managing to attrition” to backfill seats, you risk hiring agents with inadequate skill sets and false expectations with the role that they are being trained to perform. Transparency and open communication during the hiring process, coupled with the proactive trainee and trainer feedback during the first days of training is imperative. This tactic will reduce early attrition during the training phase,” adds Mills.

He recommends the following checklist when it comes to training your agents:

  • Trainers: It is imperative that you have a qualified and experienced trainer.
  • Class size is critical: Aim to have one trainer for every 20 agents you teach.
  • Nesting: Typically, specialists-in-training should practice “nesting” by taking live calls as part of their training with someone shadowing them. It may take 2-3 weeks before new agents can make these live calls on their own.

It is crucial for the prospective agents to have a lot of in-depth training so that once agents hit the floor, that agent is hitting the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from day one. The better the fit and the more informed they are, the better the retention.

Basic Rule #2 Create a Positive Work Environment

Despite advances in technology, the focus remains on customer satisfaction. How do you motivate employees to improve customer satisfaction scores? It all comes down to how well you do workforce management. First and foremost, you have to forecast your contact volumes precisely. Forecasting involves the calculation of future contact volumes which can be done in excel or using calculation tools by:

  • Analyzing historical data to do a yearly forecast
  • Looking out for seasonal trends
  • Looking at day-by-day trends

You also need to recruit and hire experienced and seasoned managers who want to create a positive culture by promoting stability, transparency, continuity, consistency and quality. In fact, when making a decision on where to apply for a job, 84% of job seekers say the reputation of a company as an employer is important.

The management team can accomplish this by creating an honest and open workplace culture with clear goals and objectives for each employee within the contact center, or as Mills explains: “It is imperative that you align both the agent and floor leadership goals and objectives; empowering each employee with the ability to hold each other accountable for their own and the Team’s success.”

As previously mentioned, a pay-for-performance compensation system for your contact center is only beneficial if it aligns to the financial and business objectives of the company. The capability for agents to earn additional pay through their performance is essential to employee retention and increased productivity, resulting in additional revenue generation for your company. In recognizing top performers through a pay-for-performance program, you are creating the foundation for a positive workplace environment that enables healthy competition among the employees in the success of themselves, their teams and the company as a whole.

Managers can also provide flexibility in employee scheduling, mentorship programs and one-on-one meetings, providing opportunities for volunteering, and giving their agents innovative work such as using AI or chatbots to relieve workers from repetitive tasks.

Basic Rule #3: Turnaround Time is Still a Priority

Despite how advanced tools and processes have gotten today, it all comes down to customer satisfaction. Your KPIs are critical from a process perspective. Mills believes that whether you’re using customer tools in your own environment or a client’s toolset, if management promotes a proactive approach for driving optimization and efficiency, you will be successful. Here are the basic metrics he believes will always play a crucial role at your contact center:

  • Average speed to answer (ASA): Workforce management, proper forecasting, and mitigating absenteeism are critical to achieving this KPI.
  • Average handle time (AHT): Proper training of the agents, floor leadership and quality management are all instrumental in reducing overall AHT through faster first call resolution, and/or establishing baseline AHT to ensure high levels of customer satisfaction.
  • First call resolution (FCR): This KPI, as well as the other two mentioned above, are all critical to achieving and maintaining consistently high levels of customer satisfaction. The “trap” that must be managed effectively is when you hold agents accountable more for FCR than AHT, especially when AHT caps are in place, agents will stay on the phone longer to resolve the issue, when in fact they should be escalating to Level 2 as required. Proper training and coaching is essential to a successful balance between FCR and AHT attainment.

Regardless of whether your customers interact with any combination of live agents, artificial intelligence, chatbots or other technology to resolve an issue, innovative thinking such as going beyond the script will always play a positive role when resolving an issue. Answering calls quickly and minimizing the amount of time a customer must spend are important but contact center agents should not prioritize them at the expense of customer satisfaction. Managers should avoid a culture where agents are trying to get customers off the phone quickly without resolving an issue fully just because they don’t want their KPIs to be off. As Mike Mills puts it: “The most important factor in all interactions with your contact center support teams is the overall “customer experience.” Adherence only to KPI’s can actually be a detriment to the “customer experience” if agents are compromising customer satisfaction for KPI attainment. Management must create a balance through the three foundational elements of a successful contact center model, People, Process and Tools; in order to achieve success over time.

Strong leaders who promote this type “out of the box” culture will continue to see customer ratings climb and agent attrition drop. To read more about the basics required for successful BPO partnerships, be sure to download the full report here.

Additional resources:

BPO study reveals biggest challenges for growing tech companies